Spending political capital

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An important task for organisations is establishing truthful communication between parties with differing interests. This task is made particularly challenging when the accuracy of the information is poorly observed or not at all. In these settings, incentive contracts based on the accuracy of information will not be very effective. This paper considers an alternative mechanism that does not require any signal of the accuracy of any information communicated to provide incentives for truthful communication. Rather, an expert sacrifices future participation in decision-making to influence the current period's decision in favour of their preferred project. This mechanism captures a notion often described as 'political capital' whereby an individual is able to achieve their own preferred decision in the current period at the expense of being able to exert influence in future decisions ('spending political capital'). When the first-best is not possible in this setting, I show that experts hold more influence than under the first-best and that, in a multi-agent extension, a finite team size is optimal. Together these results suggest that a small number of individuals hold excessive influence in organisations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3103-3121
Number of pages19
JournalThe Economic Journal
Issue number640
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

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